Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Music.
Netherlands-born producer/performer Nicolay recently stepped into strange territory with the release of his recent album Here. It serves as his first solo endeavor and glides through ambient instrumentals feathered with collaboration heavy bangers. His music stands as somewhat of a high ground street opera, serving as a window into the diary of a man who has seen it all; all this, of course, without even personally saying a word. In this interview Nicolay discusses his global travels, the collaborative process and the contrast between opening for Boyz II Men and his current tour.
How has the journey that took you from The Netherlands to North Carolina affected the way that you look at music?
Nicolay: I don’t think it has, so far, other than making me even more aware of how music truly is a language like no other, that enables me to speak to people of different languages, cultures, time zones…you name it. Music has taken me across the world and I am thankful for that.
What immediately lures the listener on your album is the graceful instrumental introduction “Here,” which is later revisited in an outro and the interlude “Let It Shine For Me.” How did you go about producing and composing these tracks compared to those that other artists were featured on?
Nicolay: To me, those tracks represent the cement that holds all of the bricks together that form a wall. I look at that intro as a segue way from my earlier albums to Here. I began chopping and rearranging a sample, and started to record all those instrument parts, like piano, bass, other keys and organs, etc. to a point where I no longer had the sample running. The very first part came top me last, like some sort of an orchestral overture. “Let It Shine” has that Here/There duality of something pretty and optimistic leading to what I think is the darkest track on the album (”The End Is Near”).
Speaking of the artists that joined you on the album, how did you define the selection process for those that would be included? Were there any collaborations that you were trying for but just didn’t happen?
Nicolay: What really defined it was time, place and circumstance. Some artists were suggested to me by the label, others I was in the process with of working together. I wanted to make sure that everything fit the vibe of the album, but at the same time I wanted to show a lot of diversity.
As you have years of work behind you, as both a performer and producer, is there a track on the album that you view as the culmination of all your hard work?
Nicolay: Really, the whole album is the culmination. I think I have grown a lot and I am pleased that a lot of reviewers are picking up on that. The album showcases my instrumental skills on tracks like “Here” and “My Story,” it has that cocky braggadocio side of “I Am The Man,” the roughness of “End Is Near,” and the beauty of “Adore.” It’s where I am right here, right now, and it’s still only the beginning.
With quite limited mainstream acceptance of many hip hop or content-based artists compared to that of modern rap, was there any thought of how to appeal to a wider audience when selecting the tracks for the album’s final product?
Nicolay: Not at all. If it appeals to a wider audience then that’s great, but that was not on my mind while putting it together.
How does the freedom of releasing a solo album compare to that of releasing an album as a part of a group?
Nicolay: It has its ups and downs. On the one hand, you only have yourself to answer to, and you can basically take it wherever you want to go. On the other hand, you have to mindful to not self-indulge too much. In the end of the day, you always need people around you to vibe off of, whether it’s in a group setting or as a ’solo’ artist.
Before I had heard your album I was reading from a variety of sources and many mentioned your experiences opening for the likes of K-Ci & JoJo as well as Boyz II Men. Within the realm of performing live, what has changed for you since then?
Nicolay: We did some pretty big shows back then (this was between 1995 and 2000) with some real good crowds, and that definitely shaped me and got me experience and confidence. Right now, as a producer slash artist, I am kind of starting up all over and have seen crowds of like…50 people, sometimes hundreds. It keeps you grounded, having seen both extremes.
Do you plan on touring at all in support of the album?
Nicolay: Yeah, but as bringing a band and vocalists is very budget unfriendly, I’m touring doing DJ sets with special guest performers. I have been touring the US and Canada the last couple of months, and Europe is next.
If you had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?
Nicolay: Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson